“This research represents an important advance in addressing safety concerns about cross-species viral transmission,” Yang said. “Our team will further engineer the PERV-free pig strain to deliver safe and effective xenotransplantation.”
“This is the first publication to report on PERV-free pig production,” Luhan Yang, co-founder and chief scientific officer at eGenesis, said in a press release.
The study further increases hope that xenotransplantation — the use of animal organs for human transplant — could one day be used to assist with a shortage of crucial human organs like hearts, livers, and lungs.
The new research is detailed in a study published in the journal Science on Thursday. In it, the scientists show how they were able to generate 37 designer pigs without active porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) that can be transmitted to humans and are potentially deadly.
Researchers at Harvard University and the nearby biotech startup eGenesis used CRISPR-Cas9, a new gene-editing method that replaces unwanted segments of DNA with “desirable” ones, to allow pig embryos to develop without harboring pig viruses that are harmful to humans.